Owner and designer Willem Smit's career began as managing director of a Theatre in Holland, where he found himself obsessing over the interior as much as the production on stage.
Things took a dramatic turn when Willem agreed to take on the role of General Manager at El Fenn, Marrakech’s much lauded art hotel in 2010, moving himself and his three dachshunds from Europe to North Africa in a Land Rover Defender loaded with treasures collected over a lifetime.
‘It was the opportunity I’d been looking for to express myself creatively. While artists have canvases, and photographers have their cameras, my natural medium turned out to be interior design.’
Three years ago he found the perfect plot for his own, long-dreamed of project. Seduced by uninterrupted Atlantic views and the traditional stacked-stone architecture typical of the gently undulating Essaouira countryside, Mr Smit enlisted the help of Studio KO (who also built the new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech), to realise his vision of Moroccan design and lifestyle in the 21st century.
‘I wanted to keep it all very simple, using primarily stone, concrete, and wood beams. It was important to me that nothing was covered up so you could really see the beauty of the place. That whole process took about three years, which gave plenty of time to think of the interior. My favourite thing was to soak in a bathtub and think about how to furnish it.’
The result is a structure of sculptural lines, voluminous rooms and a sense of being hidden, all qualities that are true to the country’s architectural heritage, but a state-of-the-art kitchen and open-plan living drawing the dazzling Saouri light into the villa, feel thoroughly Northern European. Contemporary photography adorns the walls (Mr Smit realised early on that the climate is not a canvases friend), and personal items – like his beloved grandfather’s army trunk – bring depth and history to a new build.
A home in the truest sense, and one that is defined by a deep love of art, design and family, Mr Willem Smit is delighted to welcome you to Villa Mabouka.